Tween Emotional Tsunami

My 10 year old no longer wants a hug when I drop him off at school. When we go on the tram there is no acknowledgment of any relationship at all between us. It’s a complete pull back of affection.

But then there are times when he floods over us, drowning us in his desperate need for an intense, bone-cracking, never-ending hug.

This storm of emotions started about a year ago. It started with moments when he violently pushed us away, wanting nothing to do with us followed by demands for hugs, words of affection, and snuggles at bedtime. There was no predicting his moods. All his emotions were intense and huge. It was like being tossed around in a tsunami.

We have entered the Tween Tsunami Zone.


All the child psychologist experts tell parents to expect this kind of roller coastering of emotions as teenage hormones begin to rev up, getting ready for the big surge when they become full-fledged teens. We hadn’t even begun to wait and watch for these surges when BAM! here they were.

Our friends with teenagers tell us their horror stories to prepare us for full-blown teenhood.

  • It’s just like when he was two, except he was more reasonable then.
  • You are not to acknowledge their presence or the presence of their friends unless they ask for food or money.
  • He will smell so bad you will want to move him to the top floor of your house to keep the funk contained.
  • Your grocery bill is going to triple.
  • He’s going to make decisions so stupid you will not even believe it (like setting off fireworks in the bathtub).

E is practically a textbook tween.  He is spending hours in his room reading books – in fact, demanding it to the point where he and his little brother are fighting about rooming rights in their shared space.  He is rolling his eyes and huffing at me when I ask him to do things he feels he shouldn’t have to do or are stupid (which could be the same thing).  The slightest criticism or correction sets him off in an explosion of temper. He suddenly has an opinion about his hair length and wardrobe. Spending time with his friends has become waaaay more important than family game night.

All the signs are there. He doesn’t smell horrible yet and he hasn’t shunned us completely, but that time is coming.

So, short of inventing time travel and going back to when we were perfect and he was our little snugglie-boo, what can we do about it??

Here’s what we’ve come up with so far:

Give him space when he asks.

Hug him when he needs it.

Insist on family game and movie nights. 

Continue with electronic-free family dinners.

Insist on being treated with respect at all times.

Give him clear responsibilities.

Pick our battles.

Hang on for dear life.

This won’t make the path perfectly smooth. It won’t prevent him from thinking we are the most boring, uncool, dumbest parents ever. But hopefully it will keep us from getting swept away.

3 responses to “Tween Emotional Tsunami”

  1. Good post on tweens! I think you have the action items correct! Your guy is too young yet, but I just gave our 13-year-old Jane Fonda’s book “Being A Teen.” It is superb! And don’t think she’s just some celebrity writing a book on a subject she knows nothing about. She founded several youth-focused organizations many years ago and is right on (in my opinion), super sharp and a very good soul. Check it out . . .


  2. Can’t wait. Well except maybe the hugs part.


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